As the reserves of India’s only mechanised diamond mine at Panna are depleting, its owner National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC), a Navratna public sector undertaking, is increasing its focus on exploring other diamond-rich areas in Madhya Pradesh (MP).
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“NMDC is already operating a diamond mine in Panna district (of MP). As a substitute to these mines in future (as the reserves in Panna diamond mine are depleting), NMDC has taken up the areas in MP for diamond exploration,” P K Satpathy, director (production) of NMDC, told The Indian Express. NMDC, India’s largest iron ore producer currently, is operating seven mechanised iron ore mines in Chhattisgarh and Karnataka.
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On October 27, 2016, the NMDC signed a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Madhya Pradesh Mining Corporation Ltd for exploration in 12 areas – eight out of 12 are diamond-rich areas. The largest among the eight areas is the Damoh block, which is of 1,932 square kilometres. Two blocks are spread across Chhattarpur and Panna districts. The remaining five unexplored diamond-rich areas are in Panna, near the existing mine of NMDC.
“NMDC had been conducting diamond exploration for both primary and secondary sources of diamonds since early 1960s and diamond exploration is not a new focus area. NMDC is one of the premier agencies in diamond mining and exploration and operates the only mechanised diamond mine in India. New diamond finds/discoveries will help in setting up new diamond mines,” added Satpathy.
Moreover, the company has completed its reconnaissance and has applied for prospecting licence for five diamond-rich areas in Tikamgarh district of MP. As it is a public sector company, it would get the mining licences of these areas if the prospecting operations are successful.
“The five areas under Section 10a(2)(b) of the Mines and Minerals (Development of Regulation) Amendment Act, 2015, or MMDRA Act, 2015, are the preferential right areas as NMDC had conducted multidisciplinary exploration under Reconnaissance Permit in Tikamgarh district. These areas were applied prior to the promulgation of MMDRA Act,2015,” Satpathy added.
The NMDC has also been allotted three gold-rich areas recently, as per Section 4(1) of the new mining law for G4 level exploration, by the Ministry of Mines. Two of these gold-rich areas are in Karnataka and one is in MP.
“NMDC has been empanelled as per Sub-Section 1 of Section 4 of MMDR Act, 1957, by ministry of mines, as one of the nodal agencies to conduct exploration along with 13 other central and state PSUs… NMDC has to conduct G4 level exploration in these two gold and iron ore blocks allocated to NMDC as per work elements (geological & geophysical) elaborated under Mineral (Evidence of Mineral Content) Rules, 2015,” said Satpathy.
On December 29 last year, NMDC told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Steel and Coal that while the rate at which the country’s iron ore reserves are increasing is “very less”, the demand remains “huge”.
“The rate of reserve augmentation is very less as compared to huge demand for the iron ore. Hence, innovative, substantial iron ore exploration shall be strongly pursued. A dedicated fast track iron ore exploration programme to convert iron ore resources (unexplored iron ore areas) to reserve category is needed to meet the demand of iron ore in the coming decades,” the company stated.